Trailing for most of the match, the All Blacks withstood enormous pressure from the home side before a late piece of Richie McCaw lineout magic edged them ahead and they were able to close out the contest.
Coach Steve Hansen admitted New Zealand were not quite at their best but was delighted with the courage shown by his team to stay in touch when the going got tough.
“It was 10-all at halftime and it probably shouldn’t have been,” Hansen told reporters. “It should have been way more than that but that’s sport, if you don’t take the opportunities you are given then you are likely to get a bite on the bum.”
Hansen believes the turning point of the game came in the final 15 minutes when, trailing 20-17, New Zealand withstood a goal-line battering by the Springboks.
“It seemed like five minutes but was probably only a couple of minutes on our own goal-line,” Hansen added.
“We defended our hearts out and showed a lot of courage. If they had scored then I think it would have been very difficult to come back but we showed the mental fortitude and the physical ability to keep getting up and making tackles.”
Hansen said the display was far from vintage but he could not be prouder of the effort.
“We looked pretty sluggish at times but there was no lack of desire. We defended our goal-line like our life depended on it and to a man we stood up.”
With the All Blacks on a semi-finals collision course with the Springboks at the World Cup in England later in the year, Hansen remains wary of the threat posed by South Africa.
“They are developing a style of game that’s going to be difficult to combat, they have some very exciting young backs and have a lot of pace in their backline,” he said.
“They have also got some brutal forwards, so they should be pretty happy.
“They are the number two team in the rankings and as we saw there is nothing between the first and the second team.”
(Editing by John O’Brien)